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The History of Police Challenge Coins Explained

Challenge coins have a long-standing history in the United States Armed Forces and law enforcement. The small, personalized coins have circulated for decades, usually in secret and without ceremony, to reward bravery, recognize achievements, and promote unity within a unit or department. Here is a quick look at how law enforcement challenge coins began and grew into a time-honored tradition.

Challenge Coins in the Military

Sources vary on when challenge coins started appearing within US military branches. Some say they originated during WWI, the Vietnamese War, or the Korean War. Regardless, we know that the tradition of gifting challenge coins began within this timeframe. The practice was likely inspired by a similar one among ancient Roman soldiers. During the war and after, personalized coins unique to each unit were privately distributed by officials and fellow soldiers to recognize bravery and special achievements.

Challenge Coins in Law Enforcement

Nobody knows exactly what year challenge coins for police began to appear, likely because of the discreet way they are distributed. Still, it is widely accepted that the tradition started because of the high number of veterans working in law enforcement after they retired from the military. They brought the tradition of challenge coins with them to the police force. 

Police Challenge Coins Today

To this day, police challenge coins are given and received to offer special, personalized recognition. If you see a friend or family member with a challenge coin on display, ask them about it; they’ll likely have a great story to tell.

Law enforcement challenge coins are a great way to recognize officers’ achievements while promoting a strong camaraderie within units. If you’d like to start this tradition of police challenge coins in your department, don’t hesitate to place an order with us at Lone Star Challenge Coins today!

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